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Schumer Personally Calls Health Now New York To Broker Deal Between Insurance Company And Hudson Headwaters Health Network - Presses CEO To Protect Coverage For Up To 5,000 North Country Residents

North Country is Currently Facing a Health Care Crunch Related to a Contract Inequity between Hudson Headwaters Health Network and HealthNow that Could Leave Between 4K-5K Residents without Insurance

On Friday, Schumer Met with Dr. John Rugge at Indian Lake Health Center to Discuss Options for Federal Assistance

Schumer Makes Good on Promise and Gains Assurances from Health

Four days after visiting the Indian Lake Health Center to see firsthand the current health care crunch that is affecting residents across the North Country, today U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer announced that he personally called the CEO of HealthNow New York to press the health care insurance company to continue negotiations that will protect the health coverage of 5,000 individuals across the region. Hudson Headwaters has expressed concerns that a lack of relief might force it to close its doors. Schumer, who on Friday met with Dr. John Rugge of Hudson Headwaters Health Network, gained assurances from Alphonso O'NeillWhite, CEO of Health Now, that the company is committed to resolving the contractual dispute with the Hudson Headwaters Health Network.

Schumer's phone call last night was made a day before top executives from HealthNow and the Hudson Headwaters Health Network sat down for another round of negotiations.

"Last night I received the personal assurance from HealthNow's CEO that the company is committed to finding common ground with the Hudson Headwaters Health Network so that North Country residents continue to have access to high quality health care" said Senator Schumer. "Health centers are the lifeblood of communities across the North Country and I have the utmost confidence that these two groups will hammer out a deal that is in the best interest of local residents."

Schumer on Friday traveled across the North Country and visited the Indian Lake Health Center to speak with Dr. John Rugge to see how he could assist in easing the current health care crunch affecting the region. Schumer pledged to call HealthNow in an attempt to mediate a contract dispute between Hudson Headwaters Health Network and the company.

HealthNow, which does business in the Adirondacks under the name Blue Shield of Northeastern New York, is the only hold out among the region's four major health insurance companies that has not reached a new contract with Hudson Headwaters. Between four and five thousand Hudson Headwaters patients are covered by BlueShield. A disagreement between the groups has centered around Hudson Headwaters' request that insurance companies increase payments to the same level federal Medicare and state Medicaid programs pay.

Hudson Headwaters, which treats about 60,000 patients, operates 12 health centers in Warren, Saratoga, Essex and Hamilton counties.

During his visit to the Indian Lake Health Care Center, Schumer also pushed his legislation to attract new physicians to underserved rural and urban areas. Schumer's bipartisan Physician Shortage Elimination Act of 2007 invests in programs that have been effective in attracting and retaining physicians to serve in our most underserved areas of the country like the North Country.

In the North Country and countless other regions across New York State, the shortage threatens doctors of all stripes, from pediatricians, to internists, to general surgeons. In Upstate New York, more than 52 percent of active patient care physicians are age 50 or older. Schumer said that without decisive intervention, these trends will have a serious impact on physicians' and hospitals' ability to care for patients and communities in Upstate New York. Schumer said that as the baby boomers age in to retirement, demand for medical services and health care will skyrocket.

Schumer's bipartisan Physician Shortage Elimination Act of 2007 will specifically do the following:

• Double funding for the National Health Service Corps - a program that is dedicated to meeting the needs of the underserved. Despite its success, it has been vastly under funded - in fact 80 percent of applicants must be turned away each year.

• Allow rural and underserved physician residency programs to expand by removing barriers that prevent programs from developing rural training programs.

• Double certain Title VII funding for programs that target disadvantaged youth in rural and underserved areas and nurture them to create a "pipeline" to careers in healthcare; and

• Bolster the health care cornerstone of underserved areas, the community health center, through grants and by allowing them to expand their residency programs.

According to the American Association of Medical Colleges, onethird (250,000) of active physicians nationwide are over age 55 and likely to retire by 2020, and the newest generation of physicians is unlikely to be willing to work the long hours that prior generations of physicians reportedly worked. The physiciantopopulation ratio will peak by 2020 when Americans will need more, not fewer, medical services and the baby boomers begin to approach 75 years of age. Several studies have suggested a substantial physician shortage (100,000 or more) will develop nationwide in the next 20 years.

In Upstate New York, more than 52 percent of active patient care physicians are age 50 or older, according to a recent report by the SUNY Center for Health Workforce Studies. Statistics from the New York State Department of Labor indicate that the projected percentage of annual growth of physicians and surgeons from 20042014 statewide is 10 percent, whereas the expected population growth rate is 14 percent annually for Upstate.